Last update: May 2021

5 mins to read - 2020/07/17

What Are Casual Games? An Overview

You’ve likely played them yourselves at some point. Casual games cover the widest range of games – from mobile games to board games – that target a broad audience and involve a light learning curve and strategizing. Unless you’re a hardcore gamer, it’s likely that most of the games you enjoy playing are casual games: think PacMan, Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and so on. Basically anything that has mass appeal but still requires some thinking counts as casual.

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What Are Casual Games?

Contrary to more intensive, niche-targeted hardcore titles, casual games are a broad genre targeted at a broad market. They are low intensity in both time commitment, mechanics, and strategizing. Designed for adult players (though not necessarily too difficult for children to play), casual games usually have some sort of narrative and an extent of strategic gameplay. They can range from arcade games to RPGs to simulation games to action-adventure games.

The learning curve tends to be low: gameplay is fun and easy to understand for both adults and children. Gaming mechanics are usually controlled by a few buttons or a simple tap-and-swipe interface on a mobile phone. The term “casual” comes from the fact that sessions can last five minutes or five hours, and then the gamer can walk away and pick up where they left off a few days later. Moreover, with more and more casual games going mobile, Android and iOS users can play casual games in short bursts – while they’re commuting, or during work breaks, and so on.

How Are They Different from Hyper-Casual?

Both are similar in that they have a wide target market, and can be enjoyed by anyone. However, hyper-casual games go even farther on the spectrum of casual/easy gameplay. Sessions rarely last more than a few minutes, and consist of easy, automatic “tap to play” mechanics. Hyper-casual games tend to be quite minimalist in design. They usually don’t have narrative, plot, high-quality graphics, or many of the other bells and whistles that people play casual games to enjoy. Rather, they offer instant satisfaction through completion of simple, repetitive tasks with infinite replay value.

Hyper-casual games are highly addictive, and tend to be monetized mainly by having the player view ads. Basically, they are “snackable,” and for killing time – the gaming equivalent of potato chips. With casual games, players can really immerse themselves in the design, story, artwork, and overall gaming experience.

casual game shoot the space alien!

What Monetization Strategies Exist for Casual Games?

Monetization for casual games tends to be all over the place. But the top 5 monetization tactics include:

  • In-App Purchases
  • In-App Ads
  • Rewarded Ads/Videos
  • Paid Apps
  • In-Game Brand Placements

Of course, these can be mixed and matched endlessly. But the main monetization tactic that most mobile apps utilize to some extent are in-app purchases (IAPs). Ever since the free-to-play or “freemium” model for games, mobile game monetization has never been the same. While you do see some mobile games with a more old-school vibe still having you pay a one-time, up-front fee to install their app, it’s more common to release a free app and let players pay for extra features along the way.

Where Do Push Notifications Come In?

Unsurprisingly, casual games have the widest range of use-case scenarios for push notifications. Their huge variety and vast scope of genres means there are infinite ways to use push notifications to both optimize the gaming experience and monetize F2P games. Push notifications can work in tandem with in-app ads by drawing players back into the game, which in turn results in more ad-viewing revenue. For example:

“Hey, Jeff! Your Angry Birds are lonely! And angry! Come back and show them some love!”

This results in more gameplay, which in turn results in more ad revenue.

Push notifications also work well when it comes to prompting players to make in-app purchases. This can be something extra that just lets you customize your gaming experience a little more – such as cosmetics like a suit of armor, or a chance at winning something stellar by opening a loot box. Or the purchase could be something more integral to the gaming experience, like a battle pass or premium subscription that lets you access extra levels and bonus material.

Push notifications can also be used as a vehicle to convey LiveOps, which can expand the gaming experience beyond the confines of the app itself. For example, push notifications can inform users of live events such as raids or other competitions within the game. They can deliver new content and invite users to provide feedback. They can even notify users of events occurring in the real-world gaming community, such as AMAs with game developers.

Whether your casual game is F2P or a paid install, it goes without saying that push notifications are fundamental in boosting user engagement with your app.

To read more about how to use OpenBack to boost player retention and maximize revenues, download our Case Study: Dreamworks How To Train Your Dragon App, School of Dragons

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